Careers in Oil & Gas

Oil rig jobs pay very well, even if you have no experience in the beginning.

There are many entry-level opportunities as well as for professionals. The U.S. has become the biggest producer in the world. That means opportunities to make good money are getting better and better. If you don’t mind physically demanding work and more than a hint of danger, oil rig jobs may be a good fit!

Unless you are an engineer, executive, or a scientist, most people who work on-site in oil & gas began at the bottom with no experience. In this business, “at the bottom” means you are paid $20-$30 per hour! To move up from Roustabout to Derrickhand or Driller and beyond, standardized training and certifications are required.

The vast majority of Oil & Gas operations are onshore and typically do not pay as much as offshore installations. The remoteness, cost of operation and level of danger can help explain the difference in availability and pay scale.

*Figures below are “median” salaries, quoted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and

On-site Drilling Careers:

Roustabout/Roughneck ($37,340)

This is the entry point for the majority of oil & gas workers. As a roustabout, you are essentially learning your way around the operation and performing the more remedial tasks. The responsibilities are, but not limited to:

  • Tool/work-site cleaning
  • Transport materials using lifts/truck winches
  • Assemble/Service equipment
  • Guide Operators
  • Mix drilling mud
  • Assist other crew members

Motorman ($54,000)

This position is often the next step up from roustabout or roughneck. This position is ideal for those who possess a strong aptitude for mechanics and an eye for detail. For instance, someone who likes to work on their own car could be suited for a position like this. The motorman’s main duties are to keep the motors that drive the drilling equipment running properly. Other responsibilities include:

  • Service boilers
  • Lubricate/Check equipment
  • Oversee Roustabouts/Roughnecks
  • Assist other crew members
Derrickhand ($48,130)

A senior member of the drill crew, the Derrickhand primarily deals with the top-most section of the drilling apparatus. Being afraid of heights will disqualify you for this position as the Derrickhand must spend a lot of time on the upper platforms guiding the drill in and out of the well-bore. Other duties include:

  • Mud mixing
  • Helping Driller
  • Clean/Repair Equipment
Driller ($54,430)

Generally speaking, the Driller is the leader of the crew during drilling operations. He or she runs the day-to-day duties and is the one to make on-the-spot decisions based on the signals received during the drilling process. Every live-action and ongoing aspect of the rig is monitored by the Driller.

oil rig jobs

Tool Pusher ($90,607)

Sometimes referred to as a Rig Manager, the Tool Pusher is generally responsible for the entire rig and depending on the location (onshore or offshore), may be the head of a drilling department. Often, they are the liaison between the “company man” and the drill operations. Most Tool Pushers began as roustabouts and rose to their position with many years of experience.

Other Careers in Oil & Gas

The active drilling operations at an oil or gas well account for just a small percentage of those employed in the industry. There are upwards of 1.3 million people employed in the oil & gas industry in the U.S. Virtually every kind of profession or trade is represented: construction, administrative, scientific, corporate, unskilled labor, transportation, and the list goes on.


This is one of the quintessential oil & gas jobs. That is to say, it is almost exclusively associated with the industry. Similar positions are found in the wind industry but this career was more or less invented for oil & gas, and can be extremely lucrative, which is why we wrote a whole article about it here!


Probably the most in-demand positions in the industry. There are many different kinds of engineers, but each one plays an integral role.

Generally speaking, engineers do three primary tasks: 1) identify and assess reservoirs for potential extraction, 2) develop strategies for exploration/extraction, and 3) design the systems and equipment to carry out the operation. These careers require an advanced degree, usually in engineering, geology, or geoscience.

oil rig jobs

-Specialties can include (Average Salary): Data from:

  • Petroleum Engineer ($147,030)
  • Marine/Naval Engineer ($99,860)
  • Electrical Engineer ($98,620)
  • Mechanical Engineer ($89,800)
  • Environmental Engineer ($88,530)


Wells needs to be built; pipes need to be assembled; oil/gas needs to be transported. Some preliminary schooling or instruction can be helpful and sometimes required, but to be a career tradesman (or woman) it is most common to acquire on-the-job experience and to develop expertise over time. There are too many trades in this sector to list with authority, but below are just some examples of careers and their average salaries. Data from

oil rig jobs

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